What is diskospondylitis
Diskospondylitis is also called spondylitis and vertabral osteomyelitis.
Diskospondylitis is a bacterial or fungal infection of the intervertabral discs. It can occur anywhere along the spine and can occur in more than one disc at once.
The spine is made up of a chain of bones called vertebrae that keep the spinal cord protected. There is intervertebral discs between each of these boney vertabra.
The disc provides cushioning between the vertebral bodies of the vertebrae. It is made up of the outer fibrous annulus fibrosis, and a soft nucleus pulposus which has a jelly like consistency. The vertebra are joined above and below with continuous ligaments. The ligament above the discs (dorsal ligament) is quite sensitive, comprised of many nerves.
How do discs get an infection
The most common route would be through the blood supplying the disc. An infection elsewhere in the body eg skin , bladder may be transported via the blood to the disc. Other less common paths of infection would be through a puncture wound near the spine or migration of a foreign body eg splinter
What are the signs of a pet that has diskospondylitis?
This is a disease with a slow onset with signs gradually becoming more severe. In the early stages we may just see a pet with mild back pain and a stiff gait. If left untreated it can progress to severe back pain, weakness, paralysis and rarely a fracture of the associated vertabrae, Very rare complications can lead to meningitis.
How do we diagnose Diskospondylitis?
Xrays may be helpful if the disease has been present for 3-6 weeks. But in the early stages we may not see any signs of diskospondylitis. A repeat of xrays is sometimes warranted for this reason.
CT and MRI can be used also and these tests are more sensitive at picking up the disease in its early stages.
It can sometimes be useful to culture the blood, urine or cerebrospinal fluid to help determine which antibiotic or anti-fungal will best treat the infection.
How do we treat Diskospondylitis
The appropriate antibiotic or anti-fungal drug is started in dogs with Diskospondylitis. This therapy needs to continue for many months to give the best chance of curing the disease.
Many pets also require pain relief as this can be quite a painful condition.